Monday, December 27, 2010

the plight of the highschool homeless

WaPo | During the first days Landis Brewer spent homeless, he maintained a facade of suburban comfort at South County High School, where the all-district running back with the easy smile was the image of teenage aplomb.

But when he left campus, that veneer disappeared. Brewer, 18, slept at a bus stop in Reston and kept his belongings in a garbage bag hidden behind a bush. After his grades started slipping and a teacher caught him dozing off in class, the ugly story tumbled out.

Homelessness had come as a swift, unforgiving series of blows. First, his parents, whose marriage had imploded, disappeared. A few days later, Brewer came home from school to an eviction notice posted on the front door.

Suddenly, he was one of a growing number of teens without parents, guardians or reliable shelter in one of America's richest communities. Fairfax, one of only two counties in the nation with median household incomes above $100,000, counts nearly 2,000 homeless students in its school division - about 200 of whom are, like Brewer, "unaccompanied." The latter figure is twice what the comparable figure was two years ago, a surge reflected nationally as the faltering economy has undermined many families.

The rise has coincided with newly aggressive initiatives by school districts, including Fairfax, that increasingly are getting involved in ensuring their students are not only taught and fed but also housed.

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